Campus community update

Mar. 16, 2020

This message was sent by the University President, Marc Johnson to students, faculty staff and other personnel at the University of Nevada, Reno.

To our University Community:

The events of the past few days in our country and throughout the world regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been extremely dynamic and are making a profound impact on how communities are dealing with this public health threat. Our campus has taken several measures, including enacting alternative operations in key areas, to greatly reduce the collection of people on our campus in order to diminish the spread and the severity of coronavirus. Each of you, in your own way and in working collectively, have shown a willingness to modify how we work, study, live and learn on our campus – all based on the best science-based information, recommendations, and practices that the public health community of our country and our state has put forward. I am appreciative of the work done in recent days by the University’s Issues Management Team. The group has engaged local public health leaders and state officials to inform their daily discussions and policy recommendations to help ensure the safety and health of our students, faculty, staff and community which we serve.

COVID-19 presents us with unprecedented challenges. It is requiring us all to modify personal behavior, to lessen our interactions in large groups and public places, to re-think how we work and how we deliver services, and to practice social distancing. We must continue to be vigilant in all of our efforts on these fronts. Doing so will reduce the risk of the spread of coronavirus within the community, especially among those most vulnerable. While we are still not aware of any cases of COVID-19 among University students, staff, or faculty at this time, it is important to note that the number of cases in Washoe County and in Nevada has risen.

This is why Governor Sisolak declared a state of emergency for the State of Nevada last week and on March 15 requested that all state agencies take further proactive public health measures. Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Chancellor Thom Reilly has requested that all NSHE institutions transition to remote instruction and operations no later than March 18.

It is important to note that contrary to earlier erroneous statements today from the City of Reno regarding upcoming planned closures for nonessential businesses that included our campus, the campus does remain open on alternative operations that are designed to diminish the potential for spread and severity of coronavirus.

Below is an update and reminder on what the University is doing, while remembering that the situation continues to be dynamic, and any announcements are until further notice, or if circumstances change:

The University continues to use alternative operations. The campus remains open for all necessary operations for faculty, staff, students and contractors. We are limiting public access in terms of outward-facing functions.

For employees and supervisors, particularly in light of Gov. Sisolak’s announcement yesterday and Chancellor Reilly’s announcement today that state agencies are to determine quickly what closures, or shifts to remote work and online delivery of services must be done in order to ensure the health and safety of the public, clear work guidelines are being implemented.

Human Resources, in consultation with University administration, is providing the following Definitions and Guidelines for full implementation of alternative campus operations. These definitions and guidelines have been made in an effort to maintain the health and safety of our campus while maintaining continuity for University operations. After consultation with directors, associate vice presidents or deans, managers and supervisors will inform employees of their employee designation. Depending on job responsibilities or business operational needs, an employee’s status may change at any time from one designation to another. Each unit’s role is different, obviously, and managers and supervisors are advised to carefully weigh functions that must be done in person relative to functions that could be achieved while working remotely. Given the fluidity of the coronavirus situation, the University encourages supervisors to be flexible and creative in considering remote arrangements during this time for employees, including student workers, whose job duties can be performed remotely without hampering operations. Supervisors have maximum flexibility to implement this. The University has provided Guidelines for Working Remotely and Working Remotely Resources from the Office of Information Technology.

All units should include testing remote work capabilities now and implementing flexible remote work options when applicable. Also, all units should work to emphasize the concept of social distancing in all interactions, and by limiting in-person meetings and avoid close contact whenever possible. These are small, but essential steps we must all take as we attempt to “flatten” the severity and duration of the coronavirus outbreak.

During alternative operations, an important consideration for all managers and supervisors is in-person staffing levels. Some units will need an in-person office presence in order to maintain continuity of operations, while others may not. Solutions could include maintaining your unit’s operations by having some staff work remotely one day while other members are in the office, and then switching those roles the next day.


University leadership have been in discussion about our Spring Commencement Exercises for quite some time now. As mid-May graduation dates draw closer please know that we are being extremely attentive to deciding how best to recognize one of the largest graduating classes in Nevada’s 146 year-old-history. Cancelling commencement is not under consideration. We are, however, thinking through a variety of options ranging from the traditional gathering which is live streamed to the public to an online ceremony that could be viewed by graduates and others. Obviously, health and safety considerations will be the determining factor as we work closely with authorities to anticipate and plan ahead. We will keep you apprised of decisions and developments in the weeks ahead and thank you for your understanding at the difficult time.

Campus events

The University is now changing our protocol for campus events. In accordance with the latest CDC guidelines, any public or other event that gathers more than 50 people in one place on our campus is cancelled or postponed until further notice.

Museums on our campus, including the Fleischmann Planetarium, are closed to the public until further notice. Museum faculty and staff should maintain regular hours (remote work options are available) and faculty, staff, and students who need access to any of the museums can call with questions and access can be granted as necessary.


The University’s custodial cleaning program uses disinfectants which comply with the EPA’s protocol for coronavirus. The Facilities Services in-house custodial services staff and a third-party contracted firm are in the process of implementing extra measures for increased cleaning and disinfecting of “touch points” public areas that includes, but are not limited to surfaces such as door handles, ADA door opening buttons and ramp railings, counters, conference room tables, eye wash stations and buttons, elevator buttons, panic bars on doors, podiums, phones, desk tops and edges, chairs and chair backs, light switches, drinking fountains, classrooms armchairs, and more. They’ll also work with our medical staff to determine the appropriate disinfecting of patient rooms, labs and associated medical equipment. In the next few days, Facilities Services will also be providing some additional information concerning supplying disinfectant in spray bottles to a centralized location within buildings such that buildings occupants could use them in their offices.

Transition to online instruction

As a reminder, alternative operations continue to have important implications for our faculty and students. Faculty are encouraged to continue their preparations for the resumption of the spring semester following the end of spring break on March 23. The University will officially begin online delivery of all for-credit academic courses on that date, with all courses online by March 25.

Student services

The University of Nevada, Reno Division of Student Services and the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN) sent a message to all students assuring them of the many services available to them during this period of alternate campus operations. These include grab and go dining options throughout campus; information on securing emergency funds; availability of Pack Provisions, remote teletherapy through Counseling Services as well as advising and mentorship through such programs as OISS, TRIO and The Center. This list of available services will continue to be updated and sent to students.


Students living in the residence halls were contacted by the Executive Director prior to spring break upon the announcement of the University’s alternate schedule and the expectation of taking classes on line. Students were told that we would be treating the time frame of March 23 until further notice as similar to Winter Break where students live off-campus. Students were told that while our expectation is for residents to relocate off campus during this time, we understand some students may not be able to meet this expectation. All students were provided with a link in the message to indicate their housing need and request to live on campus.

Online learning

Students are encouraged to be prepared for when instruction officially begins again on March 23. Students can access remote online learning through WebCampus and with direct communication from faculty members. Currently enrolled students without access to mobile technologies can come on campus to use a University computer. The Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center and Joe Crowley Student Union will be open to students. Please practice social distancing, and personal and public hygiene, when on campus.

Tutoring and advising

Tutoring and advising staff are currently making the transition to online delivery of their services. The University will be adjusting its withdrawal/drop deadline for courses from March 31 to April 10. We are removing holds on advising, as well as the directive that all students must receive financial aid counseling in the event of a withdrawal, so that students will not have any disruptions in their planning of fall semester schedules.

Dining services

University Dining Services will no longer be offering traditional dining options. Starting March 23, 2020, Nevada Dining will move to a “grab and go” food option at Pathways and Bytes Café. The Eatery at the Overlook will provide Hot Food Options for lunch and dinner. Most of the food vendors in the Joe Crowley Student Union will be open during this time. Visit the Joe Crowley Student Union for hours.

The Center, Every Student, Every Story.

The Center, Every Student, Every Story. is committed to offering remote student support through its email and can be reached through the telephone at (775) 784-4936. The Center will remain open as long as permitted by campus policies, but you are encouraged to connect through email or through telephone.

Student employment

Students who have employment on campus should work with their supervisors to determine flexible arrangements regarding their pay and expected duties.

Emergency funding and needs-based services

Undergraduate students in need of emergency funds are encouraged to reach out to the Dean of Students Office and the University’s Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships. Graduate students can access need-based services online through the Graduate Student Association.

Arrangements are being made for students who utilize Pack Provisions, the University’s food pantry. Updates can be found online or by emailing Pack Provisions. Counseling Services will be offering secure, remote teletherapy services in the near future. In the meantime, telephone counseling services are available. Students in need of Counseling Services can call (775) 784-4648.

The past few days have shown us all what an incredible pivot point our nation has experienced regarding the coronavirus outbreak. Decisions have been made at the federal and state level over the past 48 hours that will have profound consequences of how long and how at-risk our nation will remain. What has been evident over the past several days has been the willingness of all members of our campus community to do their part to look out for one another. We are by no means at the end of the outbreak, and we will all no doubt be asked to do more in the coming days and weeks. But if there is one thing that our University community does exceptionally well, it is that we are at our strongest coming together for a common cause.

We’ve seen this coming together many times in our past, and we have seen this care and concern for each other rise yet again throughout our University community over the past few days. We must never forget that this remains an integral and defining characteristic of our institution, and that it will continue to be called upon in the future.

For the latest information about coronavirus and our campus, please continue to consult the Novel Coronavirus information page.

Thank you again for all that you continue to do to help make our campus safe and healthy.


Marc A. Johnson